We would be lying, Gentle Reader, if we said there wasn’t a great deal of angst around stately IPB Manor in the last few weeks. There was silence on the Pando front, and Tom Gulitti’s updates sounded increasingly bleak, then increasingly Rangeriffic. And it got us thinking, as we worried about PandoNation losing its emperor/god. You see, as has been mentioned in this space many times before, we are motivated by tra-la-la-feelingsbits, not statbits. Statbitty people probably have some crazy formula-driven way of choosing their favorite player, where they plug a bunch of quality-of-opposition ratios and effective-shot-selection averages into a spreadsheet and let Excel crunch everything and spit out the name of the guy whose sweater they should be buying. But tra-la-la-feelingsbitty people aren’t motivated by reason. When we wrote our Reason We Love Hockey about Pando last summer, we posited that Pando became our favorite player on the night he split his forehead open in Detroit, but after publishing the post, Pookie said to Schnookie, “You know, he was your favorite before then.” Schnookie was stunned — Pookie was right, but frankly, we couldn’t remember that Pando was even a regular in the lineup before then. How on earth, and more importantly, why on earth had he become a guy whose sweater we owned? We don’t even know now where the PandoLove started, nor do we know how PaulieMartinNation was born. Favorite players find us; we don’t find them. And when it comes to Devils free agents, we don’t care about statbits, or market value, or reason, or rationality. We care about favorites and their tra-la-la-feelingsbits.
We were gravely concerned in the days leading up to free agency that Pando was going to be seduced to the dark side (we say to Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, “Get your paws off him, you damn dirty slag-faced whores!”), and we were starting to compose a blog-worthy response should the unthinkable happen. We were going to talk at length about how, while we understand there are cap issues, and young-player-development issues, and family issues, and money issues, and all other kinds of issues that make rational sense as to why a team and a player would choose to part ways, we REFUSE them. Those aren’t tra-la-la-feelingbits explanations for why a player leaves through free agency. Either they stay, or they go. We aren’t sentimental about former Devils players; we’re not the kinds of fans who start following another team because a favorite player has moved on there. As far as we’re concerned, there are two types of guys who have played for our team: True Devils, and Ex-Devils. We are, needless to say, Pandodoodling that our favorite playah’s playah decided today, unlike the pair of guys who dominated the Devils news last July 1, that he is the former.
This called for a celebration…
… So we took Pando out for ice cream.
(Actually, in honor of his signing, and in keeping with this summer’s theme at IPB, we made a hockey card to fill in for Pando on our ice cream run. The card reads, “PandoNation rejoices today, 07/01/08, as their fearless emperor/god re-signed for three years. May fear continue to fall dead at his feet.”)
In discussion of True vs. Ex-Devils this morning, we did, however, come up with one former Devil who bucks the trends of history — Brian Rolston. He was the first of our beloved players to be traded away, and, while the move did lead to a Stanley Cup, he remained in our hearts The One That Got Away. We loved him so much that five years after his departure, we named our cat after him. No matter where he was playing, and no matter how well or how badly, he always seemed to us to be a Devil who was stuck on other teams. Lou apparently felt the same way (and probably also has a cat named after him). The Devils had cap space to burn and were still reeling from losing to the Rangers in the playoffs — they had to make a splash in free agency, and of all the players available (all of whom were going to end up grossly overpaid), Brian Rolston was an absolute, spot-on perfect fit. We are Rolliedoodling over this signing, and we don’t care that $5 million for the next four years to a guy who’s 35 now is probably not the greatest hockey investment. We loved Rollie when we were new Devils fans, we loved him when he was journeymanning around the league, we loved him when he was awesome with the Wild, and now we’re loving him as a True Devil once more. And Rollie the cat is also delighted — this is her reenactment of her namesake turning down the Rangers’ offer:
Get your paws off me, you damn dirty slag-faced whores!
For all the Pando- and Rolliedoodling going on around here, we are not coining the term “Holikdoodling”. There will never be any Holikdoodling. There wasn’t any back in his first go-round. Bobby Holik is a classic example of a guy we’re happy to call an Ex-Devil. He didn’t have to come back. Really. But that reality won’t sink in until the first “Well, erm, uh, erm, humph, erm, garble, mumble, merm, flumph, grargh” interview with him on a Devils broadcast. In the meantime, we’re busy being happy for a change.